Most every Southerner has a favorite recipe for cheese biscuits, cheese crackers, or cheese straws, those staples of holiday gifting and year-round entertaining. With the addition of rosemary and chile peppers, I give this version of these buttery crackers unexpected heat and flavor that makes them extra habit-forming. Serve topped with fresh goat cheese and pepper jelly along with a round or two of Sazeracs, Wendy’s Bloody Marys, or shake it up with a Salty Dog. The dough for these crackers can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to bake and serve. Once baked, the crackers can be frozen and then reheated in the oven for a few minutes before serving—great for unexpected company.
Makes about 2 ½ dozen 2-inch square or round crackers
2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1. Cream the cheese and butter together in a large bowl with an electric mixer or a wooden spoon until smooth and well combined.
2. Stir together the flour, rosemary, salt, red pepper flakes, and cayenne in a separate bowl.
3. Add the flour mixture to the cheese mixture and stir to combine thoroughly.
4. Turn the dough onto a piece of wax or parchment paper. Roll into a log shape for round crackers; for square crackers, gently tap each side of the log on the counter several times to form a long rectangle. Wrap the dough in the paper and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, until the dough is firm and sliceable.
5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Cut the log into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices and arrange them on a baking sheet. Using a fork, prick the center of each cracker several times and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.
6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days.